Jun 25, 2009

The Coach of Silicon Valley

Whom do Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt turn to advice?

The same guy, apparently. Their executive coach.

From a really interesting article, which I suggest you read in totality:

Campbell has served as the secret glue helping bind Schmidt to two other rather important executives, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, enabling them to make decisions together despite their sometimes radically different perspectives. He has helped mold a process by which the three work out issues privately, then come together as a united front behind the best choice. Note: This is not consensus-building. "No one was selling out," Sacca says. "They had just been taught this amazing art of decision-making where you express your dissent, lobby each other, hear everyone out, and then get to a decision. There's no doubt that it was all Coach.

An important element of Campbell's teachings is the system he's developed for reviewing employees, which many of the executives he mentors now use. Rather than simply focusing on whether a manager has achieved his financial goals - which can lead to short-term thinking - Campbell gives equal weight to four areas. The first is traditional: performing against expectations. But then he looks at management skills, working with peers, and innovating. If you aren't good at all those things, you aren't good. "He taught me that you can increase operating earnings but not fund R&D," says Opsware's Horowitz. "You may meet your goals, but you may be such a jackass that none of the people that depend on you can meet your objectives. Bill figured out a way around this."

For Schmidt and others, having a foulmouthed angel on their shoulder - one who isn't on the payroll, with no overt political agenda - is a dream come true. "He loves people, and he loves growing people," says Jobs. "He went from being one of the prize stalks of corn on the farm to being the farmer." At Apple, Campbell is not just a board member; he's also Jobs' friend, and the two take regular Sunday walks around the streets near their homes in Palo Alto, where Jobs says they discuss "the things that have got me concerned and things I haven't yet figured out." Of particular interest to Jobs is Campbell's marketing background, as well as his magical impact on the troops. "He has learned to get A and B work out of people," says Jobs. "And Apple doesn't make four billion semiconductors. Apple is only its ideas - which is only its people." One executive who knows both men well says that Jobs trusts Campbell completely. "Bill is nonthreatening," he says.

"How does someone create a rapport where that person comes away believing that Bill cares about him first and foremost?" wonders Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins who has worked with Campbell at several companies. "Bill's impact in the end will be very hard to measure, but it is really important. It won't be in the legacy of a GE; it won't be in the more classic sense of putting points on the board. It will be in seeing the people he's touched go off to do great things."
So now I have another role model, apart from Ram Charan :-) Bill Campbell